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Let Them Play: The Ban on Transgender Athletes

Picture this: You are twelve. Your birth certificate states that you are male, and you resemble a typical male of your age. At school, in gym class, you are paired with the other males your age. However, you feel awkward and often uninterested in the games they want to play. You watch the females play together and wonder what it would be like to play with them. You've always admired that it is socially acceptable for females to have long hair, wear skirts/dresses, and like the color pink. The next day, you wear a pink dress (that you borrowed form your sister, obviously) to school and try to play with the females in gym class. The teacher immediately sends you to the principal's office, telling you that you cannot play with the females because "you are a boy and boys can only play with other boys". One of the students from gym class tells their parents, who report it to the local new station. Suddenly, you are at the center of the debate of who can participate in female games.

(Source: ABC News)

Slightly different, in March of this year, Lia Thomas was the first known transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division I championship. Any guess how the crowd responded? Silence. Thomas herself was not even proud to have won, quietly sneaking away into the back. If you take a look at Thomas (pictured above), she stereotypically resembles what we expect a male to look like. Thus, the response to her participating as a female in a girls' sport and winning no less... shocked spectators and people nationwide. This is quite similar to the response Amy Schneider received during and after her appearance on jeopardy; both transgender women are not perceived by a certain proportion of the public as 'woman enough', causing confusion and uproar. Even more confusing still... those who disagree with transgender women participating in girls' sports are unaware of the sexist irony at play: they are essentially claiming that transgender women cannot compete because biological girls could not beat biological males.

Following the end of the school year, a total of 18 states have enacted legislation that bans or limits transgender participation in sports. Most notable of these states and perhaps expected is Texas, though Minnesota receives an honorable mention for attempting to enact criminal penalties for transgender women who participate in girls' sports. The push to enact legislation is surprising, because the demographic of transgender woman athletes is very small. Despite this proponents of the bills claim it is a leap for women's equality, arguing that after puberty, it is unfair to have transgender women compete with girls'. Basically arguing, as a result of biological hormonal differences, males are unfairly stronger than females which gives them a better athletic performance. Some of these state legislatures have gone so far as to enact "sex verification" testing, which involves the transgender individual being required to submit to invasive examinations to determine their biological sex.

Would this still be an argument if the sport in question were something like ballet, and not swimming as in Lia Thomas's case? Why is this only being argued for transgender women? Would the reaction be similar for a transgender man? Does this affect more than just sports? What if you had to prove your biological sex in order to do something you loved?

Should transgender women be allowed to participate in girls' sports?

  • Yes

  • No

  • Yes - but not after puberty

  • I don't know

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